Business of Law

Feds: Nonlawyer Opened Law Firm Using IDs of 2 Lawyers with Same Name


Michael Anthony Nelson, 38, is not a lawyer. But, taking advantage of a relatively common name, he allegedly assumed the identity of two other Michael Nelsons who are, in fact, attorneys, opening a bogus law firm and obtaining credit by making use of their names.

Federal prosecutors say he opened his purported law firm, Nelson & Associates, in 2006, establishing offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles and appointing himself as managing partner, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

To do so, he allegedly made use of the identity of Michael Scot Nelson, 47, a California attorney admitted to the bar in 1995 who works for the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

The fledgling firm—for which Nelson also allegedly hired attorneys and staff—was funded, the feds say, by credit Nelson obtained by using the name of Nelson Tyler and Langer. An actual Seattle, Wash., law firm, Nelson Tyler was founded by attorney Michael Edward Nelson, who reportedly has no connection to the defendant.

Although Michael Scot Nelson had been an inactive member of the California bar, Michael Anthony Nelson allegedly reactivated Michael Scot Nelson’s law license, ordered a copy of his bar card and substituted his own contact information for Michael Scot Nelson’s on the State Bar of California website, the newspaper recounts.

“Because of these acts, the public membership records available for Michael S. Nelson on the State Bar of California website falsely corroborated Nelson’s fraudulent statements,” states a indictment handed down yesterday by a federal grand jury in San Francisco.

It charges Michael Anthony Nelson with computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft concerning his alleged misuse of Michael Scot Nelson’s name. Michael Anthony Nelson is also accused of bilking two clients of his purported law firm of a total of $34,000.

Michael Scot Nelson declined to comment when contacted by the Chronicle. The article doesn’t include any comment from Michael Anthony Nelson, who is reportedly in custody.

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